Australian Industrial Relations legislation has provided casual employees with a 25% casual loading  to compensate for paid sick and annual leave, redundancy and other entitlements, but this has now been challenged by an unprecedented Federal Court decision, followed by updates to all Modern Awards.

In WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene the court clarified there was no uncertainty or irregularity in the patterns of work Mr Skene was performing, as he had received a roster that outlined his next 52 weeks’ worth of work. As a result Mr Skene was awarded all benefits a permanent employee would receive, due to the regular nature of his work and predictable work hours.

With approximately 25% of Australia’s workforce comprising of casual employees and the outcome of this case in the forefront of many employer’s minds, questions begin to arise around the validity of each casual’s employment and the additional entitlements they may be due.

Who is a “valid” casual?

Unfortunately, despite the legislation surrounding an employment relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of a casual employee.

The Fair Work Commission defines a casual employee as “not having a firm commitment in advance from an employer about how long they will be employed for, or the days (or hours) they will work”.  However, industry definitions of casual employment have morphed from the original intent of a casual employee into something significantly different. If we were to take a cross-section across all industries, it would not come as a surprise to find casual employees working the equivalent of full-time hours with the expectation their employment will continue for the foreseeable future.

Though specific details need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, generally, casual employees:

  • Have no guaranteed hours of work;
  • Usually work irregular hours;
  • Aren’t entitled to paid sick or annual leave; and
  • Can end employment without notice, unless required by a registered agreement, Award or employment contract.

What does this mean for your business?

From 1 October 2018, all Modern Awards contain a clause for casual conversion which outlines the process casual employees may follow to convert their employment to full or part-time.

Whilst wording in each Modern Awards may differ, the basis for converting from casual to full or part-time employment remains the same:

The Casual employee must have

  • been employed for a period of 12 months;
  • worked a pattern of hours on an ongoing basis of the 12-month period;
  • a pattern of hours expected to continue into the future with no significant changes; and
  • requested conversion to full-time or part-time employment in writing.

While the introduction of casual conversion clauses in all Modern Awards will impact every organisation that currently employs or is considering hiring casual employee/s, specific industries such as retail or hospitality, who typically have higher proportion of casual employees will be most affected.

What action must you take?

As an employer you must:

  1. Provide all casual employees with a copy of the relevant clause from the applicable Award within the first twelve months of commencing employment.
  2. Recognise that you cannot terminate and re-engage an employee to avoid their conversion request, nor can you simply refer the request either.

You may however, refuse the request on reasonable grounds if the conversion would result in significant adjustment to the employee’s current hours of work, or if it is reasonably foreseeable that the employee’s current position will cease to exist within the next 12 months.

Now, more than ever, organisations who hire casual employees will need to consider the implications upon their business operations and implement sound workforce planning to determine irregular and ongoing staffing requirements.

In September Prime Minister Scott Morrison flagged the Australian Government will make it a priority to encourage migrants to move to smaller capital centres – including Perth – and into regional and rural Australia.

For employers, the new year presents opportunities to leverage changes in legislation and ensure compliance around sponsored visas and recruitment of people from overseas.

The Australian Government has made significant changes to a range of visas including the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa (previously known as the 457 visa) and has introduced high thresholds for employer sponsored permanent visas, such as the employer nomination scheme – sub class 186.

A Global Talent Scheme has also been introduced as a 12-month trial, allowing businesses operating within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industry to identify and attract top talent with unique skills to build local capability and innovation.

The purpose behind these changes is largely driven by economic policy – to ensure skilled migrants meet the needs of Australian businesses without affecting or displacing Australian workers.

While accredited Migration Agents specialise in employer-sponsored visas, it is important to remain aware of changes and what this means for your business. This is where your HR team can add value.

International “People” Investments

Investing in migrant workers can be beneficial and/crucial in industries with very specific skillsets and unique roles – but if not executed correctly international recruitment can be a time consuming and expensive exercise. Here are three hot tips for ensuring a positive return on your investment:

1)     Think beyond today – Where will you be six months or one year from now?

As with any recruitment process, have a clear understanding of your expectations from the outset. Take time to understand the business needs now, and the future direction. Your HR expert will assist your business navigate through both the visa requirements and best-practice recruitment process by taking a holistic view of how international recruitment will give your company a competitive edge and fill skills gap/s.

2)     Research – Identify and understand your target market

Like any investment, it is important to undertake research beforehand to ensure you engage the best person for the position. Understanding the overseas target market is critical in order to enable an effective recruitment and selection process. What is attractive to someone based in North America may be quite different to someone in South-East Asia.  Adjust your recruitment ‘pitch’ to attract the right candidates.

3)     Technology – connecting with your candidates

Technology is integral in the recruitment of international employees and being innovative with the use of technology will assist in ensuring the person you are interviewing is in fact the best person for the job. Consider your existing recruitment and selection process and ensure you are taking advantage of available technology to review samples of work or conduct face to face interviews.

Time and costs involved

The Department of Immigration increased visa application fees to from 1 July 2018 and there are also other associated costs involved in recruitment including travel and training levies.

It is also important to remember international recruitment is a longer and more involved process. You may have identified the perfect person to fit the role and your current and future needs AND be willing to invest in sponsorship, BUT there are no guarantees.

Assuming your business is already an accredited employer sponsor, processing times for visas vary significantly, 35 days for TSSand up to 14 months for ENS from the time of submitting an application. Consult your HR team for they will be able to help you plan and set a predicted time frame from start to finish and identify key milestones along the way.

Contact WCA – People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com

By Mindy Lee (first published in Business News, February 2019)

Mindy

It’s the three words that all companies hear, yet most find hard to actively respond to: Corporate Social Responsibility.

So, what actually is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and how can you, as a manager and leader, implement initiatives that support the CSR motion within your company?

A quick Google search can easily tell you the dictionary definition of Corporate Social Responsibility; “when corporations have a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications”. However, when you think about it more closely it is so much more than that; it’s a culture embedded in your business.

Organisations such as Perth-based commercial fishing company, Austral Fisheries, have gone to great lengths in their commitment to CSR, becoming the first carbon neutral seafood business in the world – offsetting an estimated 27,422 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Austral Fisheries Chief Executive Officer, David Carter, explained that the company identified the need to reduce and offset its’ carbon emissions to ensure the health of our oceans, which is also fundamental to their business. Complementing their decision to offset carbon dioxide emissions Austral Fisheries had previously achieved and continues to uphold, sustainable and well-managed certification for their four major Australian fisheries including Mackerel Icefish, Patagonian Toothfish and Prawns.

Austral Fisheries provides an inspiring example of how a large well managed organisation can introduce and enact CSR initiatives, without committing significant financial and/ or other resources.

Taking an environmental stance might arguably be one of the easiest (and most cost effective ways) to increase your Corporate Social Responsibility, with easy to implement and generally low cost initiatives available. Below are just a few simple environmentally conscious ideas to get your Company’s CSR inspiration flowing!

  1. Reduce Single Use Coffee Cups

On average, 1 billion single use coffee cups are used in Australia every year, which cannot be recycled – that’s over 50,000 cups being used every 30 minutes.

If your employees have a favourite local coffee shop, consider providing each of your employees with a reusable cup and approach the coffee shop to ask if discounts are provided for a reusable cup.

  1. Encourage Public Transport

Cars and light vehicles generate around 10 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions with driving just 15km in your round trip to work each day generating around one tonne of greenhouse gases per year. Catching public transport each day wouldn’t only see a reduction in the total emissions being generated, but it would also save each employee approximately $5500 a year on everyday travel expenses. Consider providing your employees with public transport passes.

  1. Minimising Printing

On average, it takes one tree to create 4000 pages of paper, as we know this contributes to a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the ecosystem, and an increase in greenhouse gases from the manufacturing and transportation needed to turn the tree into the ream of paper sitting next to your printer. So don’t print that document when there are further changes to be made and check in with clients if they would like a printed version of the report – they may find it easier to file an electronic version.

…and for the larger end of town

  1. Become carbon neutral certified

Gaining certification for becoming carbon neutral will see you join 46 other like-minded, Australian owned, organisations and help to increase your CSR presence, all while demonstrating a commitment to the environment and helping to make tomorrow greener.

  1. Utilise solar power

Utilising solar power won’t just help establish a green reputation for your company; it will help you save on overheads and has the potential to generate income for the business if your energy consumption is less than that used in your production.

As a final note… The benefits of your environmental CSR initiatives are unlikely to be seen immediately, however, from little things big things grow. Making a start, no matter how big or small will not only see you commence your CSR impact but will also see flow on benefits such as improving your company reputation, a positive impact upon employee attraction and retention, and potentially a reduction in overhead costs. So really a win-win-win result.

WCA – People & Culture Solutions is proud to support Austral Fisheries.

Contact WCA – People & Culture Solutions if you require any assistance with your Culture, Human Resources and/or Industrial Relations requirements on (08) 9383 3293 or admin@wcasolutions.com